Syrian opposition says 'safe zone' key to ending crisis
Safe zone will ease refugee crisis, produce political solution to conflict, says opposition groups
Syrian opposition representatives on Thursday insisted a safe zone be created inside Syria to deal with the current refugee crisis.
"It’s certainly true that the Syrian[s] are the solution but the U.S. need to give them hope by taking one bold step immediately," said Mohammed Ghanem, the director of the Syrian American Council based in Washington. "Create a safe zone where Assad cannot fight and refugees can have a safe haven," he said during a discussion of possible solutions to the Syrian crisis.
The event at the National Press Club with representatives from Syrian opposition groups took place as Europe and the U.S. grapples with a way to deal with the rush of refugees the conflict has produced.
The European Union recently decided to accept up to 140,000 refugees, while the Obama administration said Thursday that it would allow as many as 10,000 Syrian refugees into the U.S. during the 2016 fiscal year.
Ghanem said the small numbers of admittance would not solve the refugee crisis, but a safe zone would critically reduce the number of refugees.
"A safe zone would also be a boom to the ISIS fight," he added, using an alternative acronym for Daesh.
Radwan Ziadeh, executive director of the Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said the refugee crisis cannot be resolved as long as world powers ignore the tragedy going on inside Syria.
"The Syrian refugees have been in the camps for almost four years but there is not access to medication and other needs," Ziadeh said. "When you read the stories of the refugees fleeing into Greece or Europe in most of the cases the refugees flee because they lost their hope about their future and about the help they need."
He noted that there are a number of nations flying warplanes in Syria targeting Daesh but it is also a fact that Assad has killed more people than Daesh.
"Eighty-two percent of the refugees and the casualties are as a result of barrel bombs," he added, as he urged the U.S. to take the lead in the refugee crisis by creating a safe zone inside Syria.
The UN estimates more than 220,000 victims have died since the civil war began and 10 million have been displaced -- 6 million internally.
"It is not something difficult if the U.S., even alone with Turkey or other Arab and Asian allies, build a coalition to take action to enforce a safe zone in northern part of Syria," he said. "This is something that Turkey has been advocating and alluding for a while."
A safe zone will not only save more civilians but it will also empower the Free Syrian Army and secure the area from Daesh, he said.
Najib Ghadbian, special representative to the U.S. for the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, also agreed with Ziadeh on the U.S.'s capability to form a safe zone.
"So many aircrafts are flying over Syria," he said. "A lot of Syrians wonder: can’t these aircrafts stop and halt those helicopters and primitive aircrafts of Assad from throwing barrel bombs on civilians which is clearly a war crime and crime against humanity?"
He noted that a safe zone would be a real test for the beginning of a sustainable political solution for Syrian crisis.
Thursday’s discussion was hosted by the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy.
Last Modified: 2015-09-11 09:11:46
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